It all adds up to perfection.
Start off with a Friday that kind of unravels itself like a tightly wound ball of yarn. You move through the day like a zombie, trying to accomplish this task and that. But the hours are running down, and eventually you realize there is only so much a normal human being can accomplish in a set amount of time. Then you let out a big sigh, and you walk out the door at 5:15 p.m. ready to play as hard as you can while there’s daylight or even if there is not.
The Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner might just be the best soul food one can get here in Missoula, Montana. Take great craft beer and add amazing food cooked exactingly to match each beer and add great company and you get an ingredient of perfection.
BC chef Laurence Coffman pulled out all the stops in a tour de force of matching beer and food. As is his style, we met a month ago to plan the menu and taste the beers. Larry would dart away after each beer to contemplate its perfect food match in the kitchen.
And as he does, Larry added little flourishes and his own artistic touch to each dish that made the final list.
It started with lively conversation, which is essential for a good beer dinner experience. One needs to have a good vocabulary and be at ease with describing tastes, textures and the appearance of dishes.b
Paired with Kettehouse Brewing Company’s new Seeley Axe, a Belgian-style low-gluten beer, the first course of a pink peppercorn brined prawn in a black berry sweet chili butter and served with a crispy potato gaufrette was superb. The hint of spice in the sweet chili butter and the pink peppercorns was slightly highlighted by the touch of heat coming off the Seeley Axe, while the prominent orange peel flavors from the beer brought out the sweetness of the blackberry sauce.
Take black garlic butter-fried chorizo and make perogi ala the West Side Market in Cleveland and add some shaved Manchego Cheese and a root beer gastrique, and you’ll have one of the most phenomenal food pairings with the much loved Cold Smoke Ale. A fairly prominent spiciness emanating from the chorizo is cut slightly by the sweet malts in Cold Smoke, while smooth creaminess of the beer acts as a beautiful setting for the crisp perogi dough, the full-flavored Manchego and the tangy root beer gastrique. This was one of the more popular pairings of the night.
After two relatively heavy taste experiences interwoven with wonderful conversation about beer and how it is made, we cleansed our palates with a basil sorbet-filled lime.
My two favorite dishes came next. The pretzel crusted Clear water Springs rainbow trout with a wholegrain mustard caper emulsion begs for a light-bodied, crisp and hoppy pale ale. The perfect match seems to be Eddie Out Pale Ale, which not only has the attributes needed to sustain this dish, but the malt and hop balance in this lighter pale forms a perfect companion for the creamy fish with a slightly salty mustard-pretzel combination. Delightful indeed!
And can there be anything better than meet cooked Sous Vide? Take smoked bison tenderloin and cook it to a pink perfection Sous Vide, then slightly sear it and add sun-dried tomato and goat-cheese polenta with balsamic-glazed pearl onions and wild mushrooms, and there is so much going on you almost have to stop to listen to your palate cry out for mercy. Larry paired this dish with Kettlehouse’s Double Haul India Pale Ale, which wasn’t my favorite for this meaty dish, but matching isn’t an exact science, so you try to get as close as you possibly can.
Many chefs take the final course and plop a bit of ice cream in a barrel-aged stout and call it good for dessert. Not Larry. His pastry chef concocted a delightful tropical playground on which to enjoy the Kettlehouse’s new standard of excellence, Brick & Mortar Imperial Porter. The dark, sweet plum and hints of coconut and chocolate on this beer make it perfectly suited to the exotic taste of tropical fruit, which was layered inside a beautiful crepe with an edible orchid. This was incredible, as desserts go.
Most of the 30+ attendees stayed around to chat after the dinner, sort of marinating in the conversation as food does. The richness and complexity in life can be enjoyed to in fine detail when one sits back and let’s the words flow over the smells and tastes still linger.
And this weekend did as most weekends do, it flew by. But on Sunday evening, the wife and I were able to visit with a wonderful friend we’ve known since 1st grade, which we all attended together at Cloverdale Elementary School in Oregon.
The Iron Horse has the 406 Series from Big Sky, so we all sat in the amazing sunshine and sipped on light and refreshing Saisons and caught up on a few missed years. The weekend ended with a long walk down to Big Dipper and some ice cream to cool things down a bit.
All in all, perfection. Wouldn’t change a thing, unless it was to make three-day-weekends mandatory.